/14 Portraits

Kirk Crippens


Before my artist residency at Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon I was reflecting on ways I might connect with the city during my visit. On hearing news reports of John Brennan, the PDX naked airport protestor, I started thinking about a view camera project photographing interesting Portlanders. I began gradually piecing together a list of possible portrait subjects: Tres Shannon, founder of Voodoo Doughnuts, former Mayor Sam Adams, and eccentric millionaire John McAfee, though he was new to town. I wanted a diverse and representative group, so I also sought participants who were not as well known but who could represent a part of the city: a mail carrier, a mechanic, and a nun.

At the end of my Newspace residency, I had the pleasure of presenting the images during an artist talk. I posed a question to the audience before showing the work: “What’s the worst title you can think of for a portrait project made in Portland?” My answer was Portraitlandia. Ironically, after my slideshow a group of Portlanders began insisting I name the project Portraitlandia; I resisted (hadn’t I just proclaimed this to be the worst title?) But they persisted. They told me it was what I had created. I had created Portraitlandia.

A few days later while watching an episode of Portlandia a familiar face appeared-it was John Brennan! A new skit started and there was Mayor Sam Adams. The next scene featured Jedediah Aaker, who had posed for me in his lion suit. It was a surreal moment. I thought ‘this silly, joyful television show seems to love Portland and it uses humor to reflect and celebrate the city.’ During the past month I’d tried to connect with the city with portraiture. Somehow Portraitlandia began to seem like the perfect title for a portrait project created in Portland in 2013.